World stocks mostly up after China factory data

SEOUL, South Korea - Japan led gains in global stock markets Thursday after a manufacturing survey suggested the slowdown in China's economy is flattening out and Fed minutes reinforced expectations the U.S. central bank won't rush to raise interest rates.

News of a military coup in Thailand came just as country's stock market ended its trading session. The dollar gained about 0.3 percent against the Thai baht.

HSBC's China manufacturing index based on a survey of factory purchasing managers rose to 49.7 in May from 48.1 in April. Numbers above 50 on the 100-point scale indicate expansion. May's reading was the best result in five months, showing that China's economy is stabilizing after mini-stimulus measures.

European stocks were muted. Britain's FTSE 100 inched up 0.1 percent to 6,830.75 and Germany's DAX was up 0.1 percent at 9,709.12. France's CAC 40 was slightly lower, losing 0.3 percent to 4,455.88.

Wall Street was set for a slightly higher start, with Dow Jones futures and S&P futures both up 0.1 percent.

While the preliminary reading of China's manufacturing infused optimism, Vishnu Varathan at Mizuho Bank in Singapore said it does not mean that the world's No. 2 economy is accelerating.

The HSBC index "pick-up is at best a consolation about downside risks being mitigated rather than exuberance about an impending acceleration in activity," he said.

Market watchers said minutes from the Federal Reserve's last policy meeting released Wednesday showed that the Fed members were not worried that continued easy monetary policy would cause inflation.

That means "there will be no rush to hike rates as both inflation and employment are falling far behind the Fed's mandate," Desmond Chua, analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore, said in a commentary.

In Asia, regional heavyweight Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 2.1 percent to 14,337.79 as Japanese yen weakened moderately against the U.S. dollar.

South Korea's Kospi added 0.4 percent to 2,015.59 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.5 percent to 22,953.76.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 1 percent to 5,479.90. Stocks in New Zealand, Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries also advanced.

But China's Shanghai Composite surrendered earlier gains to fall 0.2 percent to finish at 2,021.29.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude for July delivery edged down 15 cents to $103.92 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract vaulted $1.74 to close at $104.07 on Wednesday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3681 from $1.3685 late Wednesday. The dollar rose to 101.63 yen from 101.43 yen.